The year in legal online forms for the most vulnerable in our society…2011 a recap of increasing access to justice.
I listen to the Beatles all the time, and there is this song that asks “what have you done?” that plays over the holiday season—and I always feel nagged by it—so I started to think about it, and concluded that I got by “with a little help from my friends”.
By the end of September 2011, LawHelp Interactive passed the 1.5 million mark of interviews served, since the project went national and became an ongoing project in 2005. In terms of documents assembled, we reached the 860,000+ mark.
The history of LawHelp Interactive is a history of vision, collaboration, and private-public partnerships, that is worth reading and studying for those interested in legal technology. Lexis-Nexis, HotDocs Corporation, OSLSA, CATJ, Ron Staudt, John Mayer, A2J Author, Dina Nikitaides, Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net, Kate Bladow, Richard Zorza, Sheila Fisher, Kristin Verrill, Vince Morris, Allison McDermott,Marc Lauritsen, Bart Earle, Bob Aubin, Liz Keith all are names that ring a bell to those out there that are part of the online document assembly s for those in need. There are many others—after all, it took a vast network of brains and brawn and oodles of passion and faith to get here today. As my dad used to tell me: “Rome was not built in one day”. Nor was LHI. It has been almost over 10 years of focus, spirit, lessons learned, vision, courage, and the willingness of multiple funders willing to enable such experimentation and innovation. Without our funders, we would not be here. I thank our funders, past and present, and encourage funders not yet doing so to join in funding online document assembly projects using the LawHelp Interactive infrastructure to leverage past investments and so benefit from all this sharing and so help the most vulnerable in our society to assert protect their families and assert their rights.
I thank everyone for the hard work of past year, and thank the LHI and Pro Bono Tech team and our partners in very state where forms are being used in advance for the hard work we will do next year to continue providing valuable tools to the growing masses in need and without a lawyer or working with a public interest or pro bono lawyer.
Many articles have been written and shared over the years. http://lsntap.org/tech-library/general-information, http://llr.lls.edu/docs/42-4staudt.pdf.
For me, as the year closes, and I take note of what we accomplished, the most exciting part of the LawHelp Interactive community is the continuous stream of new ideas, sharing, and tackling new areas all with one goal and one aim: increase access to Justice. This culture of sharing best practices and what is done is very much a result of the LSC TIG grants and Glenn Rawdon’s vision and leadership in helping groups with limited resources not reinvent the wheel—which with tech projects, is expensive.
Some examples looking back in January 2011 the release of the LawHelp Interactive infrastructure in Spanish, in collaboration with Indiana Legal Services.
In May 2011, A2J Author incorporated a search and replace tool that speeds up the translation of A2J Author interviews donated to the legal online document assembly community by Colorado Legal Services. The donation was ushered by LawHelp Interactive staff and announced in this webinar. etc etc:
This year, we saw Illinois Legal Aid Online created the “Save our Seniors Project” in partnership with the ABA Young Lawyers Division, and they shared their lessons with the broader community on setting up pro bono clinics for elderly clients using online forms.
We also learned from Virginia, on how to do outreach to remote legal areas to encourage those without lawyers in those remote areas, to avail themselves of knowledge and tools to help themselves.
In addition, Maine contributed the first food stamps calculator in Spanish—again targeting hard to reach LEP communities in rural areas. Colorado has shared and is teaching all of us how to create a post judgment pleading for low income, low literacy communities,
In 2012 we have some very exciting projects lined up, including releasing LawHelp Interactive in Mandarin and Vietnamese, moving forward with Minnesota on building a self represented user friendly e-filing gateway, working with Georgia/ALAS on making the LHI experience seamless for users of the state wide websites, we welcome two new courts to our infrastructure and I am sure that as the year rolls many new wonderful things will happen, that reflect the creativity, caring, and energy of all those involved on the day to day of these online forms projects.
As I look forward to assemble document number 1 Million by the end December 2011, I take a moment to pause to thank every single legal aid and court staff that has shared their work with me and others, via the LHI list serves, contributor portal, Resource Center. May we all together reach the 1 Millionth assembly together!
Together we are closing the justice gap. Reflecting my own cultural background, I say together “we are family”!
Happy Holidays and Felices Pascuas to all!